Change in Iran: Who are the key players?

Written by By Cécile Parentau, CNN

When President Hassan Rouhani was selected in June 2013, many within Iran hoped for a return to a different era of engagement between the West and Iran.

Fast forward four years, and the economy is collapsing under the weight of high debt, corruption and corruption. The economy is stagnant and unemployment is rising. The population is therefore taking to the streets.

Hassan Rouhani was sworn in for his second term at the Majlis (parliament).

President Rouhani’s recent trips abroad are representative of this response: In New York in September 2015, Rouhani described US sanctions on Iran as “destructive and illegal” and pledged support for international efforts to negotiate a permanent, diplomatic agreement on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

He also attended a UN Security Council meeting on women’s empowerment.

He also headed to China to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping. In a joint media conference, the Iranian president stressed the need for the economic benefits from the historic deal.

In April 2016, during Rouhani’s state visit to the Netherlands, the Iranian president signed agreements that will see an increase in Iranian exports to the Netherlands and Dutch investments in Iran.

Rouhani’s reference to the re-adoption of the value-added tax in Iran in March also shows the government’s commitment to generating income and revenue — of this fiscal year, approved by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s budget is due to be completely financed by income taxes.

The economy’s meltdown, which is accompanied by the exodus of national wealth from the country, is, in part, due to the mismanagement of the country’s economy: without structural reforms, the Iranian economy will not be able to obtain sustained growth.

Hassan Rouhani’s regional priority

President Rouhani was president of the Iranian revolutionary guards from 1985 to 1989. In 1990, he was elected as Tehran mayor and from 1993 to 1997, he was a member of the Majlis (parliament). In 1997, he was elected the first vice president, having replaced Muhammad Ali Rajai, who was assassinated by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members.

Rouhani focused on his role within the transitional Iranian government. He was known as the architect of the highly successful city’s privatization program and as the main advocate of spending public money on rural development. This focused on housing, development of the arid regions, and livestock development.

Hassan Rouhani’s outstanding achievements

The country’s first educational and health records were recorded by the first president, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi. President Rouhani created a modern era of education and modern healthcare services. During his three years in office, 25% of education was established; the infrastructure of schools was expanded, modernized and repainted to improve the quality of education. In addition, 60% of facilities improved in terms of age-appropriate health care services. Rouhani promoted infrastructural development and diversification of the economy.

Rouhani has managed to reform Iran’s cumbersome visa system, bringing in the visa system of European and Arab countries so as to facilitate travel for tourists from across the world. It has also facilitated visas for people from the US. Rouhani has become a world leader on his stance on nuclear talks, having significantly played a role in engaging with world powers as well as the American people.

Rouhani’s first challenges

His domestic challenges are determined by many factors: firstly, inflation and unemployment; secondly, the very high debt load and the decline of the value of the Iranian currency. The western sanctions are the trigger.

After Rouhani won the presidential election, he immediately began his efforts to pass important legislation. This is the principal reason for the unstable situation faced by the government. Therefore, the reform of the Iranian economy and its newly adopted sectors (such as religion and education) are considered as essential issues. Rouhani is the President who built the country’s infrastructure and state-owned enterprises. What is needed is to expand and to reverse these policies and reform and stabilize the state-owned enterprises. In addition, his main objective must be to control and reform Iranian institutions. Due to the revolutionary nature of the Iranian bureaucracy, revolutionary security forces, conservatives and clerics, Rouhani is directly in the political battlefield and has to negotiate very hard with these groups in order to achieve his objectives. At the same time, he needs the strong support of the Iranian people.

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